“The Book of Mormon” is actually kind of tough for me to analyze and react to on an academic level. Sure, I have seen the show and listened to the soundtrack multiple times, but I’ve always just looked at it as a source of silly entertainment. When I saw the show back in May, I knew the writers of “South Park” wrote the show, so I was not expecting anything too deep.
Part of our analysis brought a sad realization about the character of Elder Cunningham for me. On the surface, he is there for comic relief. He constantly makes up stories and references movies like “The Lord of the Rings” and “Star Wars.” Elder Cunningham uses this as an escape from reality. He has no friends, so he invents stories, using references from pop culture, to try and make friends.
“Bishop Donahue says it’s because I have no self-esteem and desperately want to fit in with my peers!” – Elder Cunningham (p. 13)
It’s not until Elder Price abandons Elder Cunningham does Elder Cunningham find self-confidence. After Elder Price left, Elder Cunningham was forced to step up. And while his methods may be a little unorthodox, they got results.
“Well, look, let’s just be happy that Elder Cunningham has people interested.” – Elder McKinley
Elder Cunningham gained the respect of his colleagues. He gained the friendship of his mission companion. He became something for the Ugandans to believe in.
When I first saw this musical, I just associated the story with themes of friendship, and I never thought deeper than that. Although it stared at me in the face throughout the entirety of the show, God is what brought Elders Cunningham and Price together. Elder Cunningham found his confidence in the name of God, and people followed him. Even with its absurdly comical elements, this play shows how religion may have a positive impact on relationships.
I found it interesting how Alex commented that this play may be about nuns and priests, but it has the least influence from God of like any of the plays we've read. I never thought about that while reading Doubt, but I couldn't agree more with Alex. The main point of this play, as Alex mentioned, was humanistic sensibility. But in a way, it can be interpreted as a comment on the present state of religion. It is supposed to give people faith and hope, but it has become so political. I mean, Sister Aloysius thinks that "Frosty the Snowman" goes against their faith. And, although we will never know if Fr. Flynn is guilty or not, the very fact that a priest would abuse his position to molest children is utterly disgusting.
I enjoyed this play, but I actually thought I would enjoy it a lot more. I was shocked by how short it was. I was hoping to see a lot more interaction between Fr. Flynn and Sister Aloysius. Their scenes were full of drama and tension, and I think the playwright definitely could've worked in more of those scenes. I also wish we got to see a little more interaction between Sister James and Sister Aloysius. They were a really great metaphor for the old and new way of thinking. My high school was a small all-girls school run by nuns. I often heard about how fewer and fewer women were becoming nuns. So, I found this relationship to be especially interesting.
One section of the play I did enjoy, and did not anticipate enjoying so much, was Sister Aloysius' conversation with Mrs. Mueller. It was surprisingly heartbreaking. Sister thought she was doing the right thing by talking with Mrs. Mueller. However, the fact that Mrs. Mueller couldn't care less about Father Flynn's relationship with her son, but just the fact that someone was paying attention to him was gutwrenching. Sister Aloysius brings up the question all readers were wondering - what kind of mother would be okay with that?
One last thing on Doubt - although I appreciate the ambiguity of the story, I really wish we would've learned whether or not Fr. Flynn did it. I like the fact that Sister Aloysius doesn't know, because the fact that she has doubts in the end totally contradicts her beliefs in the beginning. However, a small part of me wishes the reader was given at least a little hint as to whether or not Fr. Flynn was guilty. I actually read that the playwright tells the actors portraying Fr. Flynn (on stage or film) if he is guilty or not. No one else knows except that actor. I found that to be very interesting.
Sometimes, I had a hard time keeping up with this play. While I enjoyed it, I think I would have appreciated it a lot more if I could see it in person instead of just reading it. The fact that nearly every actor played at least two roles gets a little lost in translation. I was also a little confused when it came to the setting. I get that it took place in Texas, but I was a little confused with the time frame. Most times I was sure it took place in a fairly modern time, but then there would be references slightly biblical times. Maybe it's the fact that I read the play so late at night? Who knows...
I was really fascinated by the portrayal of Judas' and Joshua/Jesus' relationship. I have never heard of Judas' betrayal being the action of a jealous and hurt lover (would that be a proper term for their relationship in the play? They kissed multiple times, but a romantic relationship between the two was never explicitly stated) I've read in multiple types of literature that Judas and Jesus had a deep bond take The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, for example. I mean, I was a little shocked to read about Jesus being a gay man, but the way Judas acted would not be out of the ordinary for a hurt lover.
The first thing that struck me about Katie's post was this line: "It’s not so much what Judas did that irks people, but who he did it to." I never thought about Judas' betrayal that way, but I think that's a really interesting view to take on it. That's kind of the point of The Last Days of Judas Iscariot - it aims to give us a new view on things. Katie wrapped up this idea nicely by observing that we are all sinners, Judas' sins are just more well known.
I can say without a doubt that I have never read anything quite like The Last Days of Judas Iscariot. It is my favorite of all the plays we have read in this class. I cannot think of any Christian-themed works that look at the religion with such honesty, creativity and humor.
Take that Henrietta’s opening monologue. Boy, does that pack a punch. I went to Sunday school when I was younger and have been attending Catholic schools since I was 12. I always remember learning that Judas was a cowardly traitor that deserved no sympathy. I don’t think I was even introduced to the idea that Judas’ betrayal may have been part of a bigger plan until I was much older. Regardless of one’s personal views of Judas Iscariot, no one ever thinks of the impact of Judas’ actions on anyone else (besides Jesus). That’s why it was so clever of Guirgis to include Henrietta’s monologue. I can only imagine how gut-wrenching it is to watch this monologue be delivered. Especially that last line, “If my son is in Hell, then there is no Heaven. If my son sits in Hell, there is no God.” What an interesting way for us to view Judas. Not as history’s ultimate traitor, but son to this poor woman.
I was not expecting a play about Judas Iscariot to immediately spin him as a sympathetic character, but I am glad it did so. Moments like this are what sucked me into this play. Another great example of strong characters I found was that of Monica. First of all, let me state the obvious here in saying that I worship her sass. But she can be running her mouth one line, and the next line she is telling a heartfelt about how catatonic Judas was, immediately following his betrayal of Jesus. That’s my favorite part about this play – Guirgis’ brilliant way of giving these characters depth. Monica’s line, “I couldn’t break him. So I sat next down to him.” This contradiction I found to be just beautiful, and one of the many reasons I love this play so much.
I also really loved how modern historical figures were included in this story. It was really cool to see a new side of, for example, Mother Theresa. I loved seeing her as an actual person, not just a saint. The portion of the play when Mother Theresa could not hear anyone was absolutely hilarious. But she still had the knowledge one would expect with Mother Theresa. She said, “Boy, one must participate in one’s own salvation. In order to hear, one must be willing to listen.” (Guirgis p. 33). Guirgis understands that even people like Mother Theresa have their flaws. But then, on the flip side, he adds a little humanity to Satan. He makes Satan out to be humorous. He gives Satan enough humanity to hold a decent conversation with Judas. And then Judas… as of now, I have not finished the play. But just the way that Monica described him in his monologue was just beautiful. I can’t wait to finish it.
Disclaimer: If you are supposed to respond to my post this week, my post on Angels in America is further down! I mixed up the readings last week.
Because I did the wrong reading last week, I had the interesting chance to read the play after our class discussion last week. People brought up some interesting points: Why does the play take place in a circus tend? What kind of people are emblems? Is the fact that this play argues that individuals don't matter satisfying? Are we just a small part in the grand scheme of history? Why does God say to Job, "I'm God and you're not."
However, one of the most interesting points brought up was that of the connection between God and humanity. Our last three weeks of readings have shown us a variety of relationships between humanity and God. Waiting for Godot showed us a relationship in which God was very distant from his creation. He never interacted with the men, and just kept them waiting. JB shows a direct relationship between God and humanity. God actually speaks with humanity.
However, in Angels in America, we see a variety of relationships with God. Joe is a fairly devout Mormon. So much so that he keeps his homosexuality a secret, since it goes against what his church believes. Louis and Harper are fairly disconnected from their religions as well, yet they both consider themselves to be Jewish and Mormon, respectively. And then we have Hannah, who is incredibly devout with her Mormon faith.
Prior is an interesting case, though. Unless I am not remembering correctly, Prior never identifies with a religion. Yet, he is the one that the Angel visits and names prophet. (Unless he hallucinates the Angel, because of all the pills. That is alluded to be a possibility). Why would God appoint a man without any sort of religion to be a prophet? How would he successfully carry on God's message? Yet, even after being invited to Heaven, Prior turns down the Angel. This shows that, in the world of Angels in America, humanity has the power to turn defy God's will.
How dangerous is that?
Well everybody, it has happened again. I read the wrong play for this week. I have only just begun to read JB but, in order to get my response to LaTasha's post in on time, I am still going to respond to her post, with what knowledge I have of the work. It seems as if LaTasha is responding more so to her general feelings on Job the person, as opposed to the play JB. She spoke very eloquently of Job. Her faith really shines through on this blog post. LaTasha took an interesting spin on this blog post. She spoke of life lessons that Job taught her, such as: "The first lesson I learned from Job is never gripe and groan when faced with trials and suffering because God is still the same God when you are faced with adversary that He was when you were living a life of luxury."
Angels in America is such a 180 from the plays we read last week. I vaguely remember when the miniseries came out on HBO ten years ago, but I knew nothing of the play itself. Given some of the language and explicit sex scenes, I'm actually kind of surprised that Father selected this play for one of our readings. But, I am very glad he did select it. If he had simply selected the "cookie-cutter" forms of religious-themed plays, we would have never been able to see the true evolution of these sorts of works. We definitely would not be able to fully appreciate religious-themed works without readings like Angels in America.
The two major themes of homosexuality and Joe and Harper's Mormonism are really what made this play interesting to me. With the play being set in 1985, the discovery of AIDS was just coming to light. I honestly don't know the science behind their reasoning but, as we learn in play, doctors said that homosexuals were among the most highly affected of AIDS. Obviously I was not alive in the 80s, but it seemed that because of that, people were afraid of gay people. It's like they were dirty. Which is alluded to when, in one of Prior's dreams, one of the old Prior refers to the most current Prior as a "Sodomite" upon learning that he is gay. So how fascinating is it that Prior, a gay man, is chosen to be a prophet? And even more interesting is the fact that AIDS is referred to by some in this play as "the plague."
It's really an interesting concept. A man who is an outcast from society is chosen to be the leader of an even larger group of outcasts? Maybe Prior is intended to be a prophet to gay people, cast aside because of AIDS. Or, maybe he's intended to be a prophet to all of America, which may be alluded to in the title of the play and the fact that many of the characters talk about how dysfunctional America is in that day in age. And the fact that Prior rejects the idea of being a prophet at first is a very cool parallel to biblical stories.
Another interesting aspect of this play is the fact that Joe is a Mormon. He is a devout Mormon and believes very much in the religion. However, he struggles with the realization that he is gay, since it totally goes against what his religion teaches. To me, it seems that the playwright is challenging a huge aspect of organized religion. I mean there are so many obvious great aspects about believing in a religion. But how should you feel when that religion, one you have grown up believing in, tells you that you will be punished and possibly go to hell for being your true self. This must be what Joe felt as he realized that he was gay. I mean, as Harper said, their church doesn't *believe* in homosexuals.
I'm not going to lie, I did not really get all of this by just reading the play. I found just reading the play to be a little hard to follow. With many split scenes, hallucinations/dreams and long monologues, I found myself getting confused. However, I decided to watch the miniseries side-by-side with reading the play, and I found that to be a great help. I definitely recommend watching the miniseries to anyone else who felt lost reading the play. It was a great cast and really helped to bring some of the weirder scenes to life.
Ryan's post brought a whole new aspect to this play that I had never considered before. Since our class is so focused on religious themes in these works, I never really think of historical context outside of that. Ryan says that he first studied this play in an Irish literature class. I did not look up the history of Beckett or Waiting for Godot, so I did not realize this was a staple in Irish literature. I am familiar with the struggles between the Irish and the British. With that in mind, Ryan points out that Pozzo's arrogance is a parallel to how the British felt they were rulers (or lords, if you will) over Ireland. I only saw Pozzo as seeing himself as a god/God, so it was interesting to have this other perspective. Also, I am glad that Ryan mentioned that he saw a film version of this play (if I am remembering that correctly...) because I think this is a production that I'd need to actually see, as oppose to read, to appreciate more.
Waiting for Godot
I had a sort of strange reaction to this play. I think that, without a doubt, it is the most beautifully written piece of work we have read in class so far. I mean, this section gives me chills:
"Vladimir: Two thieves, crucified at the same time as our Savior. One -
Estragon: Saved from what?
Estragon: I'm going. [He does not move.]" (p. 4)
This section is very simple, yet very powerful at the same time. But, on the flip side, there are times where this play lost me. Especially when Lucky and Pozzo enter for the first time. It actually took me a couple of lines to realize that, despite the fact that Pozzo would refer to Lucky as "pig" or "swine", he was actually a man. This play is so dependent on a simple set and driven by the gorgeous dialogue, that I think sometimes its impact is lost when it is read, not seen.
But, this play really is beautifully written. It is such a wonderful allegory. I spent nearly the whole time trying to figure out who/what Godot was. Because the first three letters of the word spell God, I was wondering if that was a clue. Maybe God was going to join the men in the form of another homeless man? Or I thought the tree could be some parallel to the burning bush, in the story of Moses.
So, obviously I was disappointed that we did not learn who or what Godot is. But, the play is an allegory, so obviously Vladimir and Estragon (side note: I resent Beckett for naming a character "Estragon". I kept reading his name as estrogen) are not waiting for nothing. The real question is: what does their waiting symbolize?
It just seems to be an allegory for Christianity in general. Our two protagonists wait for Godot on pure faith. These men have absolutely nothing in their lives, they are completely down on their luck. They even contemplate hanging themselves. Yet they still wait for Godot, because it will be worth it. The character of Pozzo seems to symbolize the fact that, according to Christianity, the wicked will pay for said wickedness. One scene Pozzo is abusing poor, innocent Lucky. Next time those character appear, Pozzo is suddenly blind.
Speaking of those two, I would've liked to see a happier ending for Lucky. Or any sort of ending, I guess. I was very perplexed by Lucky's significance in this story. Here is an intelligent human being, and everyone that he comes into contact with couldn't care less about him. Another interesting aspect of the character is his name, Lucky. Why did Beckett choose that name? The other three characters have fairly unusual names, yet we have a character named Lucky. I have not been able to figure that one out yet.
Murder in the Cathedral
Although I did have some mixed feelings on certain parts of Waiting for Godot, I really liked it overall. So, it was pretty rough for to transition into Murder in the Cathedral. Waiting for Godot had such simple writing, yet it was still beautiful. And it still read as dialogue really people would read. Murder in the Cathedral read to me like medieval poetry. When I read plays, I visualize what this would look like as a production. So, I visualize what these characters would look and sound like saying the lines. The lines in Murder in the Cathedral is just not dialogue I can picture people actually saying. I'm honestly still struggling though it. Hopefully I can find something I enjoy out of it before our class on Monday.